Stopping vehicles during long-distance trips from Kolkata to the districts at Burdwan’s Shaktigarh on National Highway II is a habit with most travellers in West Bengal. Buses and private vehicles stop by for the food-loving Bengalis’ favourite sweets lyangcha, sitabhog and mihidana.
Last week, the food safety officers of the district held a surprise check at some of these shops along the national highway to test the quality of the food being served. The samples collected will be sent to Pune laboratory for examination, said an officer.
Lyangcha, sitabhog and mihidana have a long history in Bengal. According to some accounts, the Late Khettranath Nag first prepared the special sitabhog and mihidana during the time of Maharaja Mahatabchand Bahadur. Seventy-two years later, it gained popularity during the arrival of Lord Curzon in Burdwan as he had appreciated both sweets in 1904 on the invitation of Maharaja Vijaychand Mahatab, when Khettranath’s son Vairabchandra Nag prepared the two special sweets for the special visitor.
Mihidana is a golden coloured fine grained sweet made out of powdered rice, gram flour and saffron that is prepared through the pores of brass ladle, deep fried and added with generous amounts of ghee. Sitabhog – that resembles white strands of vermicelli – is made from cottage cheese (chhana) and flour, with ghee added to it. Lyangcha is a flour and dried milk dough fried and dipped in sugar syrup. All these are specialities from south Bengal’s Burdwan district.
These sweets are not just popular among local people, but are great favourites among people outside Burdwan. Therefore, food safety officials want to ensure that the quality of these sweets is up to the mark.
Buses and vehicles travelling between Kolkata and the other districts do not go to the interiors of Shaktigarh to buy the sweets. Rather, they stop by on the national highway, in order to save travel time. But often the quality of the sweets prepared in these shops are not of the best standard. Complaints do pour in from time to time, and this time the state authorities decided to take action against shop owners who do not prepare the sweets with good quality ingredients.
Once the test reports come from Pune, action will be taken against those found not meeting the standards, said an officer. According to the district health department authorities, similar inspection drives will be carried out all over the district.
Chief health officer of Purba Mednipur, Pranabkumar Roy, said that since people from several parts of the state and even people outside Bengal consume these sweets, the test would ensure whether ingredients used are up to the mark and whether or not there is any bacterial contamination.